Vision Zero: Setting sights on superior safety

Edmonton is taking a giant leap – even further than it already has – toward its goal of achieving serious reductions in traffic injury or fatality collisions.

In the coming months, you’re going to hear of the City of Edmonton’s traffic-safety goal called Vision Zero; zero traffic fatalities and major injuries.

Vision Zero is firmly rooted in science,” says Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) executive director Gerry Shimko. “We’re heavily into data and behaviour analysis because they’re effective tools in reducing fatalities and injuries on our roads.

Gerry’s staff walk his talk. Among them are four PhDs, specialists in areas like mathematics, roadway engineering and human behaviour.

“And Vision Zero is perfectly timed, coming as it does when more and more people are becoming vocal in their support for safer roads, bike lanes and pedestrian walkways.”

Vision Zero is based on three facts about traffic fatalities and injuries, each of which defines specific actions traffic-safety people take to reduce both collisions and the extent of harm done in the collisions that do occur.

Those facts are that:

  • Pedestrians have a 90 per cent chance of surviving a collision if the vehicle is going 30 km/h or less, but only a 10 per cent chance of surviving if the vehicle is traveling over 50 km/h.
  • Drivers and passengers have a 90% chance of surviving a side impact collision at 50 km/h or less.
  • Drivers and passengers have a 90% chance of surviving a head-on collision with a cumulative speed under 70 km/h.

Working with roadway engineers, city planners, transportation operations staff and police, OTS staff analyze collision data and pinpoint actions that will reduce collisions and their severity.

To reduce vehicle-pedestrian collisions, among other things they more clearly identify and light pedestrian crossings and significantly enforce the 30 km/h school-zone speed limit.

To reduce side impact collisions, installing dedicated left-turn flashing arrows at busy intersections, while slightly reducing the intersection’s volume capacity, can radically reduce collisions and injuries and fatalities.

And physical separation of opposing directions of vehicle flow, such as the wire rope median barriers on the QE2 highway, can significantly reduce head-on collisions.

City Council’s approval of Vision Zero means major capital expenditures involving everything from right-turn intersection configuration, to traffic signal improvements, to the school zone enforcement and roadway engineering program. It also involves public education on personal accountability for safety.

Gerry, whose career began with 28 years as a police officer, is thrilled that successive Edmonton Councils and Mayors have been supportive of the OTS.

“Their support over the years has enabled us to make incredible improvements in our analytical and collision-mitigation strategies. What Edmonton is doing in traffic-safety promotion is right up there with the best in the world,” he says.